WARNING: Thematic spoilers (actually, possibly more-than-thematic spoilers).
If you haven't watched Marvel's "Jessica Jones," stop what you are doing right now and go watch it. It's one of the few shows on television that I can say with confidence is feminist. I went into it not knowing what to expect and was more than pleasantly surprised. I just started re-watching it and I’m remembering why I liked this show so much. There are so many different lessons in it, and they’re not big in-your-face, after-school-special-style lessons. They’re lessons that -- if you're not watching carefully -- can be easily missed, but are important to know, no matter who you are. Here’s a list of just some of the more important ones.
1. Coercion is not consent.
Kilgrave raped her. Period. This is never questioned. She was not willing to be his girlfriend. He exerted his power over her and she was forced to follow his orders. Following orders in a relationship does not make you an equal, it makes you a victim of abuse. But what we do come to understand is the plight that women go through when trying to prove that they were raped or abused. She has to prove that she didn’t like it or want to do it. Sound familiar to anyone? Even if she wasn't unconscious, a yes that comes under a threat is not a yes.
2. Being a victim does not mean you are weak.
Look at Jessica. She can lift up a car with one hand. Just because she’s a victim does not mean she isn’t strong -- not only physically, but she has an inner strength that can’t be matched. Yeah, she may not deal with her problems in the healthiest way, but she does it in a way that works for her. And she gets through to the end of every day, no matter how hard it is. Even if her friend has been kidnapped, even if she’s reliving her captivity with Kilgrave via her PTSD, she pulls through. If that isn’t strength, I don’t know what is.
3. PTSD and other mental disabilities are real problems.
What I like about this show is that it personifies PTSD. It may be via creepy shots of Kilgrave invading her life at the worst moments long before he ever actually appears in the show, but through this, we feel the power he holds over her. We can see the impact that he has on her to this day, and we understand how he haunts her. And because we know little about him beforehand, and only see shots of him whispering in her ear, or (one disgusting time) licking her face while she slept, we feel that fear and disgust, too. We see that that is what victims of PTSD live with every day. And by seeing it, we can sympathize with it.
4. Even your hero has flaws.
Anyone thinking about the numerous things she did to Luke Cage? Or how she repeatedly takes her friends for granted? She does a lot of things that, to us, seem very wrong, and we think to ourselves that we would never do them. But telling the truth can be hard, and owning up to your mistakes can be even harder. We, as humans, are not perfect, so it would make sense for our heroes (who are also human) to not be perfect either.
5. Drug addiction is a health problem, not a character flaw.
Does anyone else think it’s super-sweet how she looks after Malcolm? OK, not sweet in the traditional sense, but about as sweet as Jessica Jones ever gets. Her binge drinking is admittedly very downplayed, but Malcolm's addiction is not. We see this when the neighbor calls him a bunch of terrible names, "junkie" among them, and Jessica tells them to "f*ck off" because we all know Malcolm is so much more than his addiction.
6. Queer women exist! And queer relationships are just as complex as straight relationships.
I love, love, love that not only is Carrie-Anne Moss in the show, but also that she is queer! What I love most is that Marvel doesn’t draw extra attention to it because it’s a (gasp!) lesbian relationship. I’m not fond of the fact that it’s a love triangle, and there are other troublesome aspects to it, as well. However, Hogarth and Pam have genuinely sweet moments together, and they’re not sexual in a way that is pleasing to the male gaze (pretty sure we only see them with their clothes on -- sorry, not sorry, fellas).
7. A (finally) black character is a love interest, and he’s not exoticized.
Admittedly, the show is very white and could use some more POC. But we come to know the characters as people with emotional depth, and they’re not stereotypical. I’m no authority on this, being a white-passing cisgender woman, myself. The show could definitely do more to be inclusive, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.
8. Even your man-crush can be a total creep.
But David Tennant is The Doctor! But David Tennant is Casanova! But he’s so handsome, he can’t be a creep!
Yes. Yes, he can be. And he does a very good job of it in this show. Obviously he’s playing a character, and we, as fans, can’t know how he actually is in real life. But people, regardless of how they appear, can be totally creepy and gross underneath the surface. Having attractive villains just goes to show that, even if you're pretty, you can still be a total baddie, and that knowing what someone looks like tells you nothing about how they are to others.
9. You need people more than you may think.
Jessica Jones is lucky in that she has a surprising amount of support. She may do everything she can to drive that support away from her, but she still has it, because the people who care about her know she needs them. And you see it time and again. She needs Hogarth to pull favors for her at the office, she sometimes needs (Trish’s) money and emotional support, and she needs Officer Simpson's help tracking down Kilgrave. As much as she may not want to admit it to herself, she needs these people to help her -- just like we all need the people in our lives.
10. Women can kick some ass!
Jessica definitely knows how to bring on the hurt when she needs to. She makes it clear to everyone she meets that she's a big, strong, independent woman who knows how to take care of herself. You don't want to get on her bad side.
There are so many more reasons to love Jessica Jones (the cinematography, the fight choreography, and much more), but these are just my top 10 favorites. If you haven't seen it, hopefully I haven't spoiled too much. Go check it out!